thewhitelily: (Lily)
I'm trying to take a quick break from Futureproof to work on the second in my Transport series, tentatively titled "The Wrong Kind of Snow", in which an asexual Sherlock takes the next step in a sexual relationship with John.  It's a series that's close to my heart, because reasons, and it's frustrating me that it keeps diving off in a direction I don't want.

It's not supposed to be a talky fic.  I don't want vast long relationship negotiations that fix things, because (1) it's not in character and (2) it doesn't fit with the source material I'm transforming.  But I do very much want to convey the complexity and the nontraditional joy of the relationship. It's the same tug of war between narrative causality and truth that I had to put up with while writing Carpooling, the first fic in the series.  Only now I've got a third player in the tug of war which is the 'feeling' that's been laid down by the first story.

In my source, the way the relationship progresses between someone who doesn't really understand that they're asexual and someone who's assuming everything is normal, there's a lot of miscommunication.  And some messiness, and confusion and shame and accidental button pressing and all those things, and there's some dysfunctional unsatisfying sexual encounters, but also an increasing propertion that might seem dysfunctional but are satisfying on all sides in their various ways.  And there's some communication which lights things up, but not much because everyone's just guessing what the answers might be.  Mostly, it's two people struggling along in the dark, trying to understand themselves and each other, making each other's lives better in all sorts of myriad ways, because they want to and they can.

Aces can and do have satisfying sexual relationships, because they experience what's called secondary sexual desire.  They can desire to have sex with someone for a reason other than their own sexual pleasure.  And that?  Is totally okay.  But I guess I'm finding it hard to convey the okayness of that.  I guess that's why I started writing the story, because that's the okayness of that is the story I wanted to tell.

The first story is pretty firmly show-not-tell, very close POV, and it's left a little ambiguous.  There's very few lines of dialogue, and I like it that way.  And Sherlock is a faintly unreliable narrator, disconnected enough from his own experience that no one including him is quite certain what he feels, which I love.

This story's not like that.  It's getting looooong, particularly for a 'quick' flashwork before I get back to what I'm supposed to be working on.  It's over 5K words so far of the stuff I'm fairly certain I'm keeping, which is... a lot of writing in a fairly short time, for me.  Which is good.  And annoying.  For some reason, despite what I set out to write, in this story my keyboard wants them to talk talk talk talk talk.  And John's doing a lot of being patient and understanding and mildly horrified, and Sherlock's alternating between petulant sulking and making frustratedly awkward romantic declarations.  Except when he's being passive.

I'm tearing out my hair.  I've written the same conversation at least four different ways, and there's a lot of great lines and great interactions to cherry-pick, but I'm not sure I want any of them in the story.  Because... the whole point was the not talking.  This is going to fall out differently to my source, because you know what?  The people involved are different to the characters in this story.  And that's okay too.

Now I think about it, I've had this very same happen before, when I was writing Ring Truly.  The problem there wasn't about the story not being true enough, but I guess I had similarly fixed ideas about forcing characters to follow a storyline that didn't come easily, forcing them to be happy when the ideas felt a bit angsty.  All Lex and Clark wanted to do was talk it out, which while it immediately fixed all the problems, did not work for their characters or the story.  The solution then was to kill Lois, which sent them straight back into a deep and not-talky connection, and to ruthlessly kill all the explainy OOC dialogue.  No Lois here to kill, although it occurs to me I've disappeared Mary by unspecified hurtful means, I could lean further into that..

The OOC dialogue has to go.  And I have to find a way to do it all through body language and experiencial incidents.  Sherlock needs some fire.  So does John.  And apparently I have to find a way to let myself write happy sex scenes.  Me.  Writing sex where no one's crying on the inside.  /o\  I don't think I'll ever be able to write sexy sex.  But I guess if I'm ever going to be able to write at least happyish sex, it'll be this story.  I've got most of two scenes, I don't know how they play for other people, but they're fine for me.  I think I need a third, too, but okay.

You know the other thing I need to do?  Stop obsessing about what's wrong with this story, and just write it.  Even if it's wrong.  Leave the dialogue.  Fill in the gaps, tidy it up, get it done.  Not perfect; out the door.  Enough with the pointless, euphemistic excuses for why it's not right.  Do the thing.

Yeah, yeah, I already knew that.
thewhitelily: (Lily)
So this is it.  The big one.  Only actually not, because that's the whole point.

This year was going to be all about finishing things and booting them out the door, perfect or not.  I've made a fantastic start.  I've been tracking my writing this year, which is really interesting.  I've written almost 30,000 words in three months, and it's about to be nearly 40,000 that I've posted.  I'm about to release my fourth fic for this year.  This is... seriously amazing, for me.  (Objectively, 3/4 of the posted words being newly written is not exactly a high hit rate for 'getting previously unposted words off my hard drive'.  But that's how my process works; all the words come in the editing phase.)  Three of those fics weren't finished when the year started.  One was, but I'd been having some significant problems with letting it go, so I'm counting it.  And one fic wasn't even started.  I've got five more fics lined up for posting after that, all ready to go, which takes me through to September on my Fic Per Month schedule that I'd set myself.  Some of them are pretty wimpy little fics: one's 2000 words, but the rest are under 500, and one's only a drabble.  So if I feel inspired to upgrade to finishing one of my other WIPs instead, I can do that.  But given the energy I've expended on the big three, and in combination with cross-posting some of my older works I've already posted around the place, I'm happy to consider that they satisfy my goal.

I'm also planning to do NaNoWriMo again this year, so I'd like to have enough fic to see out the year before I hit November.  Preferably some more Sherlock, because it's a great fandom and I'd love finish off my expansions to the Living Conditions universe.  Or maybe some Imperial Radch, because those books sucked me in liek woah.  But I've got plenty of time to think of that, because we're only about to hit April.  I don't feel like surely it must still be January, like I usually would at this time of year--I feel like it must be at least June, because I've already done so much.  I'm way ahead of the game.  Which is good.  Because the other thing I'd like out of the way before November, so I can focus properly, is... Futureproof.  Oh, man, I'm sure anyone who's been following me since 2006 NaNoWriMo is bored of me trying to finish Futureproof, because... only, no... wait... That's right: I have no ongoing followers from back then.  Or if I do, you are lurkers who never post or comment and have only yourselves to blame.  And I love you anyway.  :)

So here I go.  Finishing Futureproof was the ultimate goal of this year.  Finishing it, and getting on with my next novel. This story has been dogging my steps for nearly ten years.  It's not going to make it to ten, do you hear me!  Before November, it will be gone.  Off to a publisher, or posted online, or something.  Out of my brainspace.  It doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to be out of the way so I can get on with writing the next thing with a clear conscience, learning and getting better all the time.  I can't throw it away.  It doesn't deserve that, and I ended up literally needing psychological help after I tried.  Yes, literally.  I'm a writer, I don't misuse that word.  Also, Futureproof's good.  It's actually really good.  And it's come a long way from the NaNovel I tried to walk away from.  But it's got some major flaws in it that have made it difficult for me to deal with.  Maybe I can fix them; maybe I can't.  But if I can't, I think I need to learn to live with them and sign off on it anyway.  It doesn't have to be the best thing I've ever written.  It just has to be done.

I've taken the last week of March off writing, because otherwise after Ring Truly I was starting to look down the barrel of burning out.  I hope Conservation plays well when I post it, and gives me the boost I need, because as of April 1st--yeah, I know, hello irony, but I'm not actually kidding--my main focus is going to be on getting Futureproof finished.  Not getting overwhelmed or depressed or convinced that this is the only idea for a novel I'll ever have so it'd better be absolutely perfect, because my hard drive is overflowing with proof to the contrary.  Like The Unknown Clone, and Cloud Castles, and Shifting Sands, and even The Enchanted Cello, all of which deserve to be finished.  Wow, I don't think I've ever listed them out like that; I honestly hadn't realised that I have five original novels lying around waiting to be finished.  I'd mainly thought about my finishing problem being one original novel and a stack of fanfic, but... five original novels! Shifting Sands has over 75,000 words!

I just need to get them done, one by one, because each one will teach me something new I need to learn so that the next one will be better.  And easier.  If there's one thing I've learned about getting things finished in the past few months, it's that with my work?  I don't need to worry about the polish; that comes on its own, all I need to do is make myself sit down and work on the problems I see. Futureproof is first, because it's by far the closest to being there.

Current problems I see with the manuscript:
1) A very few minor holes in the narrative.  No problem, I should be able to nix them now I've buffed up my filling-in-holes muscles, and I can definitely use a combo of the following four points to fill the gaps.
2) Protagonist problems.  Gary's kind of limp, actually.  Reactive.  And cowardly.  Which is in some ways how he's meant to be, because those are his main character flaws.  But he does believe in things, and passionately--it's just the way that I've set up the plot, for the majority of the time, the only actual actions he takes in pursuit of his beliefs are passively waiting it out in the conviction things will turn out for the best, studiedly doing nothing when presented with a decision, and manfully not wetting himself in terror when presented with a consequence.  He really needs some brainstorming to work out how to bring the reader investment into him.
3) Antagonist problems.  My three minor villians are brilliant and deep, but the Big Bad is... absent.  He's got motivations and actions and history and so on, what he's missing is a character that promotes any reader investment at all.
4) Tension issues.  This is a big one actually, and relates to problems 2 and 3--particularly 2--and also a poor mystery/suspense writing.  I wrote this while I was in my keep-everything-secret-for-as-long-as-possible mode, and I was ending up writing stuff that was not so much 'wow, what a twist' but 'what's going on, why am I reading this, and by the way what just happened and why was I supposed to care?!'  Okay, so it's not that bad, but I'm much much better at handling tension than I was when I originally wrote this thing, so I should be able to fix it easily.
5) Worldbuilding emptiness.  This is mostly a problem for later.  I can deal with this when I've got the whole thing complete.  Or not.  Because it's really not that bad.  But in the meantime, if I'm having trouble writing anything else, I can start writing behind-the-scenes vignettes to wake up the little grace notes that make a universe sing in the reader's mind.  Writing that sort of thing is usually pretty good at waking up uninspiring plot/characters, too.

Looking at all that, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed.  Some of those things sound pretty fundamental.  But no really, there's plenty of good story that's actually there, I just haven't talked about those bits.  And I think the foundation I've got should mean most of those things are more in the realm of elaboration and tweaking than major rewriting.  I'm going to need to do some drawing and charting, but that's good, because the next couple of weeks are school holidays and I'll have the boys at home with me.  Messing around on big bits of paper with them is always better than trying to hide away in my room on my laptop.  I think it's realistic--if assuming some level of tenacity--to think I should be able to deal with problems 1-3 in April, with possible opportunistic forays into 4 and 5, although I intend to mostly leave them until May.  I can do this thing.  If not perfectly, then at least... successfully.

And that's all I need to ask of myself.  Tomorrow will be here soon.  This isn't a big deal, it's just writing.  One word in front of the other.  I'm rested and ready.  Bring it on.
thewhitelily: (Lily)
I'm trying to write humour at the moment: finishing off a little 800 word story based on a mediocre pun, which I had lurking on my hard drive, because this year is the year of Finishing Things and Getting Them Out The Door.  So far I'm well on track for my goal which was to finish and post something new every month.  January's Glass Darkly ripped out hearts, February's Red Tulips melted them, and I'm quietly hoping that March's Conservation will be just as brilliant, but with a smile.

Finishing is the part I've always found hardest on stories - not so much editing, but filling in the last few gaps in the narrative, smoothing out the boring bits of how they get from one crucial scene to another and working through how to write scenes where the characters are uncooperative because they wouldn't quite do that.  My writing is densely packed with meaning,  I don't write filler.  Transitions and lets-just-close-our-eyes-and-pretend-they'd-actualy-do-this bits are horrifyingly awful for me to write.  But I noticed something about the way I write while I was working on Living Conditions, and the writing I've done this year has allowed me to grasp hold of it and understand something fundamental about my process, making it a lot easier.

So here's the thing: everything I write is crap, at first.  And short.  My technique is a bit similar to the Snowflake Method (only actually way different): the first words down on the page are a very rough sketch that is an intrinsically awful reflection of the concept I'm holding in my mind, and then I work and work and work on those words until they're filled out into something beautiful and meaningful.  When I'm inspired and the words are flowing, this all happens so automatically I don't even notice how wrong those first words were.  But when I'm not inspired by the transitions I need to make the rest of the story work, those first few sketchy lines are incredibly hard to draw because it feels abhorrent to put something so awful next to the jewels that make up the rest of the story.  And I despair of ever being able to successfully polish it to match.  I know what has to happen happen, I just don't know how to write it.  But I don't need to know how to write it, because for me the how comes a long time after the writing itself.  'What' is enough for the sketching lines.  'How' does have its own difficulties, but will essentially look after itself.

Conservation has finally reached what I call the 'complete framework' stage--where it flips over from being agonising work sewing together scenes into being all there apart from my consuming obsession with fixing and elaborating the insufficiently awesome bits.  And of course, it's grown from 800 to over 7000 words long, and is dipping dangerously close to angst in places.  Because I am me.  And I'm starting to feel like, no matter how different humour is to the things I usually write, I actually can do it.

And as far as polishing goes, humour is very different to anything I usually write.

In the end, to work, humour needs to look effortless, and I think I've been falling for the myth that it is.  But in the end, it's like writing anything else: 2% inspiration, 98% hard work brainstorming and inspecting every phrase and every word with a magnifying glass to maximise the impact.  No wonder I haven't written much humour before if I've been relying solely on inspiration. I've been finding Scott Adam's Humor Formula very helpful in working out what I can do to make something a little more giggle-worthy.  Unfortunately by the time I get through that process with a joke, it's sometimes beginning to lose the shine so I lose confidence in it. Humour is so dependant on a freshness that isn't as necessary for other genres. It's hard to get that instinctive feeling that it has clicked into a place where it's just right, when actually to me the joke's not all that funny anymore.

I think it's clear that I'm not going to be the next Terry Pratchett.  But I'll be me, and maybe the me I am will have another tool that I understand how to use for whatever it is that 'me' wants to write.

And
I think I'm managing to balance it and pull it back from the brink of becoming too angsty or too farcical, weaving the threads of both together to make something that's even better.  I hope.  I've made a number of people laugh out loud by cherry-picking snippets for them, although one of those was reading aloud to Hubby so the inclusion of expression means it possibly doesn't count.

I think Conservation is working.  It's certainly working well enough to get it out the door even if it's not perfect.  Everything is learning, and if I don't try to write humour because it's frustrating to be so awkward at it, I'll never understand it and I'll never get close to the point where I can tickle a funny bone with the same sadistic glee that I can tug on a heartstring.  And I'll never get to practice what I need to practice most of all: finishing the damn things, and letting them go.  Because this story doesn't need to be perfect; there's always another story coming along, and that one will be better for my having the courage to face the imperfections, turn the handle, and get this one done.
thewhitelily: (Lily)
Someone sent me a flame on my new story.  It was inevitable with something edgy like this.  Unreliable narrator, sexual assault, and disturbing relationship parallels...  I can see where she was coming from.  But she wasn't polite.  Apparently it made her want to vomit, and I didn't spend enough time on the pairing she preferred, and she hated the ending because the place the hope came from was sick.

It's ridiculous.  I mean, I know she's wrong in pretty much every respect about this - for starters she'd clearly chosen the wrong story to read, and for the rest of it, the line that made her want to vomit obviously made her start skimming and skip the resolution of that because the next few lines pretty much fix exactly the things she complained about.  Or maybe she read it, she just didn't understand because my narrator doesn't specifically point out his next few lines completely invert the meaning of the first one.  Perhaps she should have gone for a story where the characters were magically turned into kittens and everyone is completely emotionally aware all the time.

Unfortunately for her, all of my plot bunnies turn out to have fangs and go straight for the throat.  This one more than usual.

The feedback on this story has been unexpectedly effusive.  Words like genius, extraordinary, mind-blowing, intelligent, spectacular, truthful, and unique--to the point where it had finally overcome my ambiguous feelings about the happenings therein and reinforced what I knew in my gut to be true: this is a brilliant story, well worth sharing.

I don't mind constructive criticism--I love constructive criticism--I love to hear which bits have worked for someone, which bits havn't so I can do more of the things that worked and less of the things that don't, so I can get closer to that perfection which is every moment working for every reader all the time.  (Ha!  Even I know that's impossible.)  If I can work on them, that is.

It's not even like I think she was right.  She didn't have a point, not about anything she said. She'd clearly misunderstood the line that was her main complaint--she got exactly what I wanted out of it, she just didn't keep reading to get the kick in the guts fixed. And it's not even like she went after the vulnerable bits that I already felt a bit queasy about--she went after my favourite bit of one of the most perfect and necessary portions of the resolution, and what was essentially the central tenant the whole story, which if she didn't like she could have stopped reading at chapter 3.

But now, here I am, having panic attacks, dreading going to bed because I know as soon as I let my mind stop being intensely distracted in the moment, this horrible feeling in my chest will spread all over and try to drown me. I should have been asleep two and a half hours ago to catch up on the sleep I've been missing writing this story.

I need to go to bed.  Wish me luck.
thewhitelily: (Lily)
Hello everyone!  I'm sure no one's watching this any more--it's been five years, but I think I might have somewhat started to emerge from the fog of mothering very young children.  I'm writing again, and so here I am, writing about writing, and about my life.

It's funny, because in the last two months I've somehow managed to write an entire, stunningly brilliant 60,000 word fanfiction novel, and I've talked very little about it.  I've been obsessed; I've been consumed; I've given up eating and sleeping and talking to anyone who exists outside my head; I've lost over 10% of my body weight, which is usually the sign of a good story for me.  And I've created something extraordinary.  It's turned out to be little like the evil adult love-child of His Son's Father and Mother of Invention, and it's in the BBC Sherlock fandom.  Come on, there's so many geniuses in that fandom--you knew I couldn't stay away.

Yes, it's fanfiction, which is not the direction I had decided to go with my writing, but I guess I must write where inspiration takes me.  Speaking of which, it's... disturbing.  And explicit.  And very gay.  And did I mention disturbing?  None of which was really where I wanted to be heading with my writing either, but I haven't been able to leave this story alone--it's just too good.  Did I mention it was also powerful, and hopeful, and thought-provoking, and tense, and emotional, and packed with vivid characters, and absolutely laden with layers of meaning and genuine things to say?  And it has a happy ending?  The comments I've been getting seem to confirm it; it's not just me.  This story deserved to be finished.

You know the thing of which I'm probably most proud?  I know it's not perfect.  There's lines, there's whole scenes, there's words that aren't... exactly right.  Words that I could spend hours or days on, obsessing over, trying to find exactly the right fit.  But I'm not doing that.  I'm not saying I haven't done that at all, because I have.  One sentence ended up with an essay and a flowchart to sort out the six layers of meaning I was trying to convey with it--but I'm doing my best to save it for the moments that are the most important.  For the rest, I'm doing the easiest 99% of the job, and letting the other 1% go. And I'm posting it anyway.  99% perfect is actually pretty damn good.  

In any case, at this point I'm about to post the tenth and final chapter, and I guess I'm coming up for air.  I'm thinking about what I've done, and what I'm going to do next.  And I'm thinking about how I'm going to do it, to make sure that I keep this momentum--keep finishing things, keep creating things that are worthwhile, and keep doing things that are important to me, not just as Mum, but as me.

I've still been checking in on Futureproof regularly, and it's progressing.  It's had a lot of good work on it, and I'm going to go back to working on it, or perhaps have another go at starting something else original, as soon as this current story packs itself and its assorted outtakes up and vacates my brain.

I've come to terms with the way I work on things.  It takes me a long time to write something good, it needs to bake in my brain.  Bursts of all-consuming obsession interspersed with vacations--it's during the vacations that some of the most truly extraordinary things happen to the story, so I'm not worried--when I do get back to Futureproof, there'll be something amazing there waiting for me again.  If there's not, I'll give it a brief spring cleaning to make sure nothing's hiding under the beds, and then work on something else for a while.

So here's my question: does anyone still read this?  Or am I still stuck in my head, talking to myself?
thewhitelily: (Default)
See above.

Inner Editor, are you following? Good.

Edit: Also, why do I keep writing stuff that makes tenses completely impossible? e.g. I resisted the urge to interrogate SEER all the way down to the platform, but only because the me with no inkling of a future without Simone had continued to pepper me with trivial questions about his day yesterday morning. I mean: WTF?!

Edit 2: Ah, appropriately enough, the solution is to ignore the time differential and take it out of perfect tense. I didn't even plan that. TAKE THAT, INNER EDITOR!
thewhitelily: (Default)
Some people find the blank page intimidating. A whole empty white page, staring at you, with nothing on it but possibility.

Not me.

I have a short attention span, but as long as I prevent myself from alt-tabbing away from a blank page for long enough, it ends up with writing on it. Lots of writing.

My problem is the imperfectly filled page. (tl;dr) )

This year I have a great deal on, writing wise. First of all, there’s the personal commitment I’ve made to submitting a manuscript to the Australian Vogel Award this year. (Deadlines = Love) I haven’t yet decided whether it will be Return to Sender or Cloud Castles. Given the above, I’m going to have to work pretty hard on at least one of them to bring it to a standard where I’m willing to let it out of my sight in just over four months time.

At the moment, I’m procrastinating. I’m supposed to be writing a play for my nieces’ school’s Mystery Festival: a humourous whodunit that concludes with each one of six suspects looking equally guilty. I’ve got almost two pages of it written, out of about ten – after which it will need editing. It’s simple enough now that I’ve got a multi-layered plot with a cast of seedy characters. It’s easy, it’s fun, I’ve got stacks of fantastic ideas, and it’s good procrastination for getting stuck into my more serious manuscripts.

Still, I’m having trouble focussing. I should be gazing at the empty third page of the Mystery Festival play, staring it down long enough that, to prevent me from dying of bordom, the creative juices will start to flow and sweep me up into that literary orgasm of productivity that will result in another few pages of script.

Instead, I’ve opened up a second word document, where I’m writing endless pointless introspections on my psyche and personality traits. Such as procrastination.

Speaking of which, my apologies for randomly disappearing for a six weeks once again. I’ve been rather overwhelmed by life: since we last spoke I’ve attended to Hubby’s grandma’s funeral, hosted the Lily Family Christmas Spectacular starring nine children under ten and a chocolate fountain, maintained an incredibly high level of productivity at work, broken down at Hubby under the strain and threatened to move to Sweden for a year, mopped up the remains of a two-foot deep flash flood in the office, and generally continued running at top efficiency in procrastinating writing.

Hmmm. Time to get back to it, I guess.

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The White Lily

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